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Researchers eye Hubbard archaeology

BY TING XUAN TAN | JUNE 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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In describing the recent archaeological discoveries in Hubbard Park, officials said workers did not expect to find a such historically rich site.

“I think we have an opportunity to provide more information on the different ethnic communities that lived in Iowa City in the mid- to late-19th century,” said Melody Pope, the general contracts program director for the Office of the State Archaeologist.

Pope, who also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa, said archaeology is able to provide a source for information and serve to highlight underrepresented groups in the city’s history.

Members of the Italian and African-American communities, as well as women, are often underrepresented in the “somewhat meager written documents” that the city of Iowa City has recorded, Pope said.

The archeological findings at Hubbard Park were discovered in February during work on excavating for chilled-water lines.

Portions of former limestone walls and other artifacts were found.

The uncovering of the artifacts at the park followed a 2013 discovery at the site of the University of Iowa’s new School of Music facility that is currently under construction at the intersection of Burlington and Clinton Streets.

Remnants of an old building foundation were uncovered alongside a water well and several artifacts dating to the 1830s.

Bill Whittaker, a project archaeologist at the Office of the State Archeologist, said that he expects workers to uncover more foundations in Hubbard Park in the future.

“The historic records show that this was a neighborhood,” Whittaker said, noting that he believes a large number of houses formerly occupied the block.

In the flood of 1951, the site was covered in a layer of soil, Whittaker said.

The artifacts date to pre-Civil War Iowa City, Whittaker said

Some prehistoric Native American Indian artifacts, such as arrowheads dating back to 3,000 B.C.E., have also been discovered, the DI has previously reported.

As a FEMA funded project, the discovery of this archaeological site has necessitated a memorandum of agreement to be updated. This causes the need for measures to be taken to prevent any adverse effects from occurring on the site before beginning the investigation process. Legal documents are being reviewed and historic markers have to be established before the next phase of investigation can begin.

“Any projects that include federal funding support will often include stringent requirements for any ‘finds’ discovered on the project site,” Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management, wrote in an email.

Sorting through legal documents and associated measures that must be taken are two reasons the second round of digging won’t begin until September.

With the park being closed, some students miss the use of the green field during summer, and events that had been planned to be held at Hubbard Park have been moved.

Whittaker said after the work is completed, local residents will be able to witness another aspect of the city’s history.


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